'Ghost' still lurks atop int'l b.o.

No. 1 for third week in row with $16.3 mil weekend

Sony Picture Releasing International's "Ghost Rider" maintained its No. 1 spot internationally for the third consecutive weekend, grossing an estimated $16.3 million from about 4,000 screens in 56 territories and hiking its overseas boxoffice total $60.7 million.

The Marvel Comics-based action fantasy starring Nicolas Cage played at an additional 1,000 screens, easily dominating an otherwise predictable post-Oscars, pre-summer-blitz session and blazing past the combined boxoffice tally of the No. 2 and No. 3 titles for the weekend.

Worldwide, "Ghost" has grossed $155.5 million in three weekends of release.

Debuts in the U.K. (an estimated $3.5 million from 350 screens, good for a $10,000-per-screen average and a No. 2 ranking), Brazil (a No. 1 ranking with $1.8 million at 278 spots) and Japan (finishing No. 3 with $1.2 million from 263 situations) provided nearly half of the weekend's gross. The next big market opening for "Ghost" is Italy on March 16.

Finishing second for the frame is 20th Century Fox International's "Night at the Museum," which made an estimated $7 million from 3,400 screens in 29 markets, lifting its international total to $280.1 million. The biggest market was France, where the Ben Stiller comedy snared an estimated $2.3 million in its fourth weekend at 626 sites, raising its market total to $15.1 million.

Taking the No. 3 spot is Warner Bros. International's "Music and Lyrics," starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. The romantic comedy yielded an estimated $6.7 million from 1,655 locales in 18 markets, raising its international total to $32.2 million.

The biggest of the new markets was Korea, where "Lyrics" grossed an estimated $2.1 million from 140 sites, enough to finish No. 1 in the market, according to WBI.

No. 4 for the weekend is Sony's "The Pursuit of Happyness," which actually climbed 7% from the previous weekend on the strength of strong bows in Asian markets. Its weekend estimate is $6.6 million from 2,700 screens in 52 territories, raising the international total to $124.5 million.

The Will Smith drama bowed at No. 2 in Korea (an estimated $1.8 million from 140 sites for a solid $12,857 per-screen average) and No. 1 in Taiwan ($410,000 from 18 screens, or $22,777 per screen) and in Singapore ($230,000 from 26 spots, or $8,846 per screen).

Thanks to openings in 10 markets, including a strong bow in France, DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures International's "Dreamgirls" finished at No. 5, logging its best weekend yet internationally. Its estimated gross is $5.8 million from 1,791 screens in 52 territories, lifting the musical's international total to $37.3 million. In France, "Dreamgirls" placed second in the market with an estimated $1.6 million from 350 spots.

The U.K., the largest overseas market for Hollywood studio films, continued to be the focus of single-market runs.

Universal International's "Hot Fuzz," a cop-thriller spoof co-produced by Britain's Working Title Films, remains No. 1 in the market for the third consecutive weekend, grossing an estimated $4.3 million from 428 screens. Its 17-day U.K. total is $30.6 million.

New Line's "The Number 23," starring Jim Carrey (which placed fifth domestically for the weekend), finished in the No. 3 spot in its second weekend in the U.K. with an estimated $1.5 million from 324 screens.

U.K. distributor Momentum Pictures opened "The Illusionist," starring Edward Norton, at 274 screens for an estimated $1.4 million, enough to place No. 4 in the market. Paramount/MTV Films/PPI bowed "Freedom Writers," a drama starring Hilary Swank as an inspirational high school teacher, at 228 screens for an estimated $450,000 (results from Mexico, where the film also bowed, were not available at press time).

In Mexico, another key market, Fox bowed "Pathfinder," an action adventure about a Viking boy battling a Native American tribe, at 200 screens for an estimated $411,000, enough to rank No. 5 in the market. In the Philippines, Buena Vista International opened "Primeval," a horror thriller, for an estimated $150,000 from 25 screens.

Among the Oscar-connected titles was WBI's "Blood Diamond," with Leonardo DiCaprio, which yielded an estimated $4.3 million during the weekend from 2,460 screens in 57 markets, hiking its international total to $94.8 million. Thanks to a No. 1 bow in Italy (an estimated $3.1 million from 419 locations), Fox's "Borat" raised its international total to $125.6 million.

Fox's "Notes on a Scandal" yielded an estimated $2.5 million from 1,000 screens in 33 markets for an overseas cume of $17.5 million. WBI's "Letters From Iwo Jima" raised its international total to $50.5 million thanks to an estimated $1.9 million weekend from 938 screens in 49 markets.

Fox's "The Last King of Scotland" drew an estimated $1 million from 690 locations in 41 markets for an overseas cume of $17.9 million. Universal's "The Good Shepherd" gathered an estimated $1.9 million from 770 screens in seven markets for an international total of $8.3 million. Summit Entertainment/PPI-Vantage's "Babel" came up with an estimated $715,000 from 532 spots in 15 territories, good for a cume of $38 million in PPI territories.

PPI's "Charlotte's Web" pulled an estimate of $2.5 million from 1,841 screens in 47 markets for an overseas cume of $55.6 million. Fox's "Rocky Balboa" fought its way to an estimated $2.3 million from 1,800 spots in 10 markets for an overseas cume (excluding Scandinavia) of $71.1 million. PPI's "Norbit," with Eddie Murphy, laughed all the way to an estimated $2.2 million from 641 locations in seven territories for an overseas total of $9.2 million.

PPI's "Barnyard" and Universal's "Smokin' Aces" registered estimates of $1.5 million each, with the former playing 654 screens in 41 territories while "Aces" played 500 dates in 23 markets. Overall overseas cumes: $40 million for "Barnyard" and $14.3 million for "Aces."

Other overseas cume updates: Universal's "The Holiday," $127.6 million; BVI's "Deja Vu," $105.7 million; Lionsgate's "Saw III," $76.3 million; and BVI's "Die Wilden Kerle 4" (Wild Bunch 4), $15.7 million.